In this unit we will examine the politics and political system of the United States of America. The lecture/tutorial content and the assessment focus on the following two general themes;
normative political principles and their application in the United States, and key institutions and their operation.

Studying the United States is important for two reasons. Firstly, because the United States is perhaps the most powerful state in the international system and a key ally of Australia, understanding how politics works in the US is of great practical importance to us. Secondly, the American model of politics is important in its own right. The founding of the US Constitution created one of the earliest democratic political systems of the modern era. Since then, peoples and states around the world have built upon the "American model" when constructing their own constitutions and political systems.

Finally, while this course will concentrate solely on US politics, it is important that we keep in mind that the American political system represents, in part, a response to a set of general political problems and challenges that any political system must confront. Even if we find ourselves critical of some aspects of American politics, we should recall that there is much we can learn from this subject that may be of relevance elsewhere.   

Unit details

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Students enrolled in course code ABAB or LBLA must have completed two of the following units ASP1001 Foundations of Political Science, ASP2007 Dictatorship and Democracy, ASP2010 Origins of International Politics.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Interrogate the normative problems that emerged in the context of the formation of the political system of the United States of America;  
  2. Critique the institutional design of the federal government of the USA in light of the normative challenges faced in the context of its formation;  
  3. Critically review literature related to the field of American government; and  
  4. Articulate persuasive arguments in response to problems associated with normative theory and institutional design as relevant to the political system of the USA.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Other Online assessment (VU Collaborate) 10%
Essay Essay based on normative analysis (2000 words) 45%
Examination Exam 45%

Required reading

Perspectives on American Government 1st/2nd
Jillson C. and Robertson D. B. 2010/2014
London and New York: Routledge

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